Setting Long-Term Foundations (Or Why We Need Brendan Rodgers)

IN the summer, the owners of Liverpool Football Club, FSG, sacked Kenny Dalglish. It was, for me, a seizmic event. It shook my whole view of what the game meant. And it left me having a rethink over how I ought to personally relate to the game. My wife once said to me, “It’s a waste of time, most of the time”. And she’s right. But mostly you feel everyone’s on the same side, and there’s spiritual sustenance to be drawn from that. So you keep on trucking.

But this, it seemed, was pivotal. If they’d sacked The King, then they’d better be serious about their solution. It would have to extend beyond a whim. Beyond some fly-by-night managerial appointment, and beyond smoke and mirrors. They would need to demonstrate their commitment to making the club work, with a joined up long-term plan, and a credible long-term strategy. They’d need to consolidate and build on the club’s existing strengths, while addressing its tendency to shoot itself squarely in the foot. And lastly, with those in place, they’d better back and support their new man, and give him the resources he needs to do the job. They’d better not leave him hanging out to dry like they had his predecessor. They’d better be serious.

So with that in mind, with people asking my opinion on who the new man ought to be, my mind turned to exactly those criteria. To long-term strategy, and to integration, and to practical matters like personal relationships.

At that time, I said in late May that I thought it should be Rodgers. Why? Well, he’d give them all those things, almost for free. All they’d need to do would be to back him, and put the right support structure in place behind the scenes. As I saw it, the club needed a foundation to build from. I’ll explain why.

Blueprint For Football

[With apologies to the brilliant Paul Grech for stealing the sub-heading from his excellent site – see here: ]

Rodgers, it seems, appeared at his interview with a weighty manifesto as to how he proposed to reshape the club. From root to fruit, the club would adopt a uniform approach to its coaching and its football – something that would both echo Liverpool’s traditions as a club, while informing its activities in other areas, most notably the transfer market. The club, and the players in each position, would have a clearly defined approach that informed its activities on all fronts. A joined up approach. Whether it’s being successfully implemented at first team level is of course the topic of currently heated debate. But we’ve seen evidence of its implementation throughout the club, with the recruitment of Alex Inglethorpe as Reserve team coach (a devotee of a similar approach), and the promotion of Rodolfo Borrell as Academy Director, a move that bakes in the pipeline of players suited to Rodgers’ approach. If you’ve been schooled by Borrell, chances are you’ll slot in quite well to the first team when needed. (Those questioning the repatriation of Thomas Ince maybe could possibly take note.)

We’ve already seen Sterling, Suso, Wisdom, and others stake a claim. The talents within the Academy have had a genuine sniff of first team success, and they’ll be infused with the motivation to make it happen – something we’ve maybe been lacking to date in our attempts to promote our players. Meanwhile, there’s talk of improving our use of the loan system in our players’ development – something that’s been long overdue in comparison with other clubs, arguably boasting poorer players than we’ve done at lower levels.

If you want the whole thing to run like Klopp’s Dortmund, then you need to give it time to happen. As the club develops from here, this uniform approach should be the foundation stone for all future developments. It’s the only way to punch above your weight long-term, and to support notions of being anything other than a cup team.

Transfer Disasters to Value Investment

Following disasterous activity in the transfer market for successive windows (not only the overpayments for players – also the alleged overrules which led to missing out on other opportunities), it was clear that, in the absence of a Commolli, whoever came in (manager and support staff) would need clear guidelines, boundaries, budgets (wages and fees), and terms of reference in this area. Everyone would need to know what their role was, and what the limits of that role would be.

As the debate raged, and the recruitment saga unfolded with Martinez supping his latte and Rodgers saying he wasn’t interested unless he was first choice, not to mention talk of Van Gaal and of Beguiristain as potential directors of football, it started to dribble out that the club had been exploring potential structures, and that instead of a standard Director Of Football, they may go with a committee-type approach. Come the day Rodgers was unveiled, he made it clear right from the off that he wouldn’t be beholden to a Director Of Football, creating an uncomfortable moment for Ian Ayre in the process. A committee it was to be, with someone in charge of sports science, someone in charge of player liaison, and someone in charge of scouting and recruitment. A structure, it seemed, that chimed with the ideas bubbling out of the club itself at the time, with Michael Edwards, an analyst within the club, seemingly central to the proposed architecture.

With Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter being put on gardening leave from Manchester City, and the club prepared to sit and wait for them to start before putting the new set up in place, it was clear a long-term, patient approach was being adopted, but it led to clear problems, with the close of the summer transfer window seeing Rodgers, like Kenny and Rafa before him, undermined in his transfer efforts by men in suits. At the 11th hour, the suits remembered to impose recruitment criteria they’d neglected to tell Rodgers about. Sturridge, boarding a plane to Monaco with Chelsea, was passed up in favour of Dempsey, who was all lined up (after a protracted and latterly embarrassing ‘tapping up’ saga). But at the death, FSG and Ayre realised that, after all that, Dempsey was too old, and that they’d have to pass.

The fans were enraged. But of course, it was OK, because FSG were being patient, and this was just a blip until the new committee was in place, and free from gardening leave. We’d address it in January, and the manager would have his support. The resources would be made available.

Fast forward to January, and it’s interesting to see Rodgers tell assembled bloggers and podcasters that certain elements of it all are out of his hands. It seems maybe Rodgers ended up with his Director Of Football after all, albeit in triumvarate form. As long as they’re all on the same page though – that represents progress. The intransigence emerging on, for example, agency fees, perhaps hints at an act coming together.

A Laurel and Hardy Handshake

It may seem trite, and ill-suited to the conventions of debate about football management, but when you work for someone, it helps if you get on with them. Yes, the way things have always been in our game, it ought to be the ‘Holy Trinity’, with the Directors and Chairmen ‘only signing the cheques’, but the reality nowadays, if it wasn’t always the norm, is that a manager will always struggle if he can’t communicate cordially with his employers.

Rodgers, whether we value it as fans or not (and some actively resent it, it seems), has established a good relationship with his owners, and with those he works with on a day-to-day basis behind the scenes. That, whether we acknowledge it or not, can only be in the interests of the club for the medium- to long-term.

The Rub

The owners, and the men in suits behind the scenes. They must support their man. They must make it clear what his terms of reference are to the extent that it’s feasible to do so. They must reinforce his position, and his authority. Because without it, the whole thing could be sunk before it gets out of the dry dock. January will go a long way towards telling us if that’s the case. Rodgers, while he has a thing or two to learn it seems, has talent and vision. But those will come to nought without the right backing. We’ll all be watching intently over the coming month.


  1. Kenny wasn’t backed by the owners in transfers ? Well..truth is he was & he was particularly told to get the top 4 position. He didn’t.
    Actually he bought that trouble onto himself by not signing as you would say “horses for courses”. When you are told you have to deliver within a short time you never buy work-in-progress like Hendo..Never. Never for 16m & never ever over Mario Goetze..whom he chose to overlook in the process. Downing & Adam barely had 1 good season too. Carroll had 1/2 season of top flight!!
    I am Sorry, but for that money Newcastle & Everton would challenge top 4.
    always. They would have simply bought better.

    Brendan at least looks better although he too erred in the same way as Dalglish by going for Borini..who had barely 1 complete Serie A season & under no pressure. But he spent only 10m + on an apparently promising talent (that you wouldn’t buy & depend on if you are challenging for Top 4 that very season but) which could be good in the long run.

  2. Roy Henderson

    Thanks for not actually reading the article Kevin mate ;)

  3. Great read Roy. Some great points made and probably along the same lines as I feel about the situation at the moment. Rodgers needs time and major backing from FSG to show that he is their man for now and the long term.

  4. I think Rogers relationship with the owners is key. They must trust him as much (if not more) as they do their 3 man committee. Otherwise we’ll end up with more Assaidi’s and “faults” will appear.

    In terms of January, don’t we already pretty much know what’s coming? Sturridge, Ince and maybe one more? Is that sufficient support?

  5. Thanks for that cheeky sarcastic “;-)” Roy. I read the entire article..and must say I liked it ..but don’t think those two mentions you had

    “And lastly, with those in place, they’d better back and support their new man, and give him the resources he needs to do the job. They’d better not leave him hanging out to dry like they had his predecessor..”


    “with the close of the summer transfer window seeing Rodgers, like Kenny and Rafa before him, undermined in his transfer efforts by men in suits.”

    are just blatantly wrong. Yes. in the 2nd reference, I agree if you just Brendan & Rafa..but Kenny..NO way!!

  6. Agree that Brendan needs to be persisted with…& yes, this coming month will say a lot about what FSG actually want.
    But with Kenny, there was lot of money on offer..& even though you may say the only resource Kenny didn’t get was time..but it was never going to be available to him in such measure because JWH & Co had said that no top 4 would be a very disappointing season…

  7. It’s a fantasy to think Rodgers is a sure thing to turn out well if he is simply given time. He has no track record to suggest he knows what it takes to win against the big boys in the Premier League. What should we base our trust on?

    He has to earn our trust, not just talk rubbish that everything will be rosy in the future. He isn’t earning our trust with the results, and the defending all season has been noticeably poor compared to Rafa or Kenny’s teams.

    I didn’t think Rodgers should have got near the Liverpool job based on 9 months Premier League experience with Swansea. We have clueless American owners who took a punt on a rookie manager because he got good press last season and IMO it will turn out to be yet another stupid decision by FSG.

  8. Robin Crimes

    Nice to read an article on LFC where a little pragmatism has been applied. The fact is – the grass isn’t always greener.

    Regarding funding, we’re all speculating but my feeling for a long time has been they’ll be £15m in Jan and around £40m in the summer. If that is the case then I think that’s a fair amount for owners to invest.

    It seems the club need to balance their books this season. If that leads to a better future then I’m happy with it. Rodgers seems like he may have the potential to learn quickly and become a good manager and I’m happy to give him a go.

    We’ve all got caught in the ‘want everything now’ syndrome that reflects modern life. Unless you actually act smart you never actually get everything now and just end up chasing the dream.

  9. Great article as always, love Anfield Wrap! Always talk sense unlike a former player who loves sensationalist radio phone ins. FSG have to sort out who is in charge of running the club ie cheif exec. Someone has to based at the club in Liverpool who has the power to make decisions so we don’t have stupid situations like in the last window. As its clear Ian Ayre isnt the man. They also have to back Buck Rodgers financially to buy “the right” players regardless of age! If your good enough your old enough applies to players of all ages!

    • jonnysingapore

      Well said Alan. FSG’s mistake was part circumstance and part judgement.

      They really needed a good CEO running the shop that they could hold accountable for appointments and actions, investment and results – standard corporate stuff.

      They had Purslow, probably the most dubious CEO you could have, that for some unknown reason saw fit to junk the club’s most successful manager in 2 decades some weeks/months before the ownership of the club was to be changing at great cost.

      Perhaps they never intended to get a CEO longer term, or perhaps seeing what Purslow was doing thought they could handle it themselves so long as they had a DoF and a few other directors.

      Of course they end up with the windowless van driver in Comolli, didn’t replace Purslow opening up a catalog of bad decisions, though to be honest, those bad decisions started with Purslow.

      What bothers me is not how well they all get on with each other sitting in their offices – I doubt they could handle many of the projects I have to on a day to day basis – but why our midfield gets over run by West Ham, Villa and Stoke, with Fulham just not bothering to turn up.

      That’s far more important, and more embarrassing when it goes wrong.

      The right person – for lfc that is a heavy weight like Van Gaal – would setup a strong midfield, having brought new players in there and notice our defence was the strongest outside Manchester last season and kept it like that.

      Why can’t Rodgers do that and what’s it got to do with getting on with any fucking suit at the club?

  10. Good read –

    Agree entirely with the sacking of KK – that has proved to be a pivotal moment for me in the way I view Football and LFC in particular –

    Couple of points that have always troubled me about BR and FSG –

    I cannot believe BR knew nothing about the fiasco behind the final day of the transfer window – if he didn’t and he is as principled as he claims to be, he should have walked there and then citing (quite rightly), he could not be expected to work under FSG & Ian Ayre –

    My second concern is around the relationship between BR & FSG; BR is a ‘good fit’ for FSG; he makes the right noises and doesn’t upset the media, was happy (based on the amount he was involved), to get into ‘Being Liverpool’ & looks happy to tow the party line ref transfers etc;

    The media and PR awareness skills BR brings to the table seem to far outweigh is ability to actually manage the team, and in particular, grind out results & effect team performance in real time – there is no evidence to suggest BR can improve this as quickly as required (ie NOW!!); as previous posters suggest, talk is cheap, it’s time to start producing where it matters – on the pitch; Liverpool have QPR, United and Arsenal Away coming up in the next few weeks with Sunderland at home; based on our current form I wouldn’t dare to dream we would get any more then 6 pts from these games.

    I’m not suggesting BR should be sacked (because it would be pointless), but a poor run of results until the end of Jan could leave us too far behind the pack for even a Europa league spot, and while I accept this season is a transitional one, there are others out there who could achieve better with the resources currently at the club.

    If we were to finish mid table (which our half way point tally would suggest is likely), we are going to be struggling to keep the decent players we actually have, making recruitment even harder.

  11. One other point ref BR’s ‘talent & Vision’; –

    I have heard (far too much) about the vision, but seen little of the talent; I read on another forum BR is all ‘fur coat and no knickers’;

    Given where we are this seems an unfortunate but accurate description given the teams actual performances;

    Might be an opportune time to give the vision a rest and let the talent have a go…

  12. Rodgers has an incredible propensity for sound bites that don’t really address any of the points raised during questioning… Always ‘finding positives’ but most distressingly talking about the team as ‘they’… Not ‘we or us’… This is particularly prevalent after a defeat.
    He has been found sadly lacking at every critical period during matches… When has he made a decision that has even slightly altered a game?… We were woeful against Stoke and Villa… Suso’s inclusion on Boxing Day, bordered on a playground error… I am extremely concerned about Sunday and even more concerned about handing him £15m to spend on more mediocrity in January… Troubling times indeed.

    • I agree Mike. The interview sessions the guys put up for us are full of misdirection and mateying up verbiage. It would be nice if someone would take a step back from the lovefest and ask him to answer the question just asked.

      I’m not one of those getting on his back or want him out (yet), I think we’re stuck with him for a while, so we might as well all get behind him. He’s obviously a lot easier to have around than Hodgson despite their similar poor records. A few less dodgy decisions this season would have the side looking a lot better in the league, even if its only papering over the cracks.

      But I really wish he’d tone down the salesman stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if two independent interviewers asked the same question with opposing views, he’s agree with both after rambling off question on tangents.

      I think questions need to be asked about the new scouting team if we’re only looking to bring in Sturridge and Ince. It’s not as if they’re starting from zero names fresh out of uni. Rodgers need to be open to players he hasn’t worked with, especially at the prices he’s paying.

      My biggest concern is FSG themselves. Are they really looking to push the club up, or are they priming it for resale? For all their Sox hyped success, look at the state of that franchise today. Perhaps someone needs to remind Joe 90 clubs can be relegated from the EPL, something alien to US sports.

  13. Agree there. Some of the stuff he comes out with and the manner in which he does so (he reminds me of a deluded, shit hypnotist) has already started grating big time. He needs to cut the brochure talk, be honest, stop making outrageous statements and then immediately back tracking before the steady gush of those already turning against him will turn into a tide. Then there really will be chunks of the brown stuff needing to be dislodged from Henry and Werner’s veneers.

  14. Roy,You seem to know what FSG are thinking and seem quite close to them.

    So just ask them to give me a shot at the big time.I remember how Real Madrid played in the late 50’s.I watched Shanly’s team in the early 60’s.I’ve seen Barcelona.

    I’ve studied the best.I won’t start off by complaining about what a poor squad we have like Rodgers and Hodgson.I’ll respect a multitude of International Managers who pick them in their squads for every campaign.

    I promise you and them that I will concentrate on producing a good performance on the pitch rather that talking up a good game in pre-match press conferences.

    Tell them I’m available and just give me 8 to 10 years to get it all sorted!

    By the way,any jobs going in your place for apprentice Managing Directors?

    • BrianB

      Maybe you should start actually watching football instead of mouthing off the whole time. We have had a good few poor results but only about 3 or 4 poor performances & at 31 games we have played more than any other PL team, with a very young squad. We all know what the real problem with the likes of yourself, but just get over it mate, he ant coming back, period!!

      • Thanks Josek,

        I honestly didn’t realise it was all my fault.

        I’ll just shut up now and let you get on with it!

        Good luck!

  15. Alex Koschier

    Great as usual Roy. I might only add that Klopp’s Dortmund was Zorc’s Dortmund before who is their DOF/Sporting manager and had the strategy implemented before Klopp came. Klopp was chosen on that.
    But that does not disagree with your points made.

  16. As always good food for thought from Hendo….but I get the feeling the tide is just begging to turn against BR. The old adage the table never lies should guide any decisions to be made. The football has been decent so far, but the results have not. I don’t swallow the BS about philosophy, I want to believe because of results.

    A track record similar to The Hodge simply is not good enough, BR needs a big turn around second half of the season or why should we accept mediocrity ? These guys are paid a fortune and need to deliver immediately..AVB at Spurs is keeping his gob shut and letting his team do his talking for him.

    Results will dictate whether BR gets knickers to go along with the fur coat we have seen so far.

    • jonnysingapore

      The interesting question is what do FSG do if Rodgers doesn’t get things happening a little better?

      Do they stick with him after this season [and nearly £50m spent]?

      Tough to know.

  17. jonnysingapore

    Roy. Not really sure what you’re driving at in this article or why you wrote it, especially given the very worrying performance levels under Rodgers.

    That Rodgers needs to get on with the management team? That they need to back him in the transfer market? That they’re taking a long time to get it sorted but it’ll be ok in the end? Is that all there is in your “book of foundations”?

    What does intrigue me is that you would rather have a newbie like Rodgers with little or nothing to say he can build a new era, over a Van Gaal who’s been there, done it everywhere he’s been. What are you smoking?

    Or do you have a 180 page dossier that tells you how it’s all supposed to pan out [including how to setup for Stoke away]?

    oh, and it was Rafa’s youth setup initiative that has produced results under Segura/Borrell. As McParland said, they were already doing things the way Rodgers wants to play. The fruits of that have nothing to do with Rodgers.

    The recruitment of Inglethorpe was made necessary because somehow they managed to piss of Segura to the extent he resigned.

    That’s a worry given that a lot of the ideas for the academy were implemented by him, learnt over many years from La Masia. More incompetence or are you trying to spin it as a positive?

    FSG have for some reason decided that a person of little experience is the right person to build under certain parameters and take us back to the top 4.

    I’d say that’s about as high risk a strategy as you can get, and only blind faith would justify it.

  18. I was really pleased when Brendan Rodgers was appointed as I thought Swansea were a revelation last season. Thus far, his biggest contribution has been to make Liverpool significantly worse defensively. Quite an achievement given Skertel and Agger are top quality, Glen Johnson is in the best form of his career and when he featured, Andre Wisdom looked a top talent. Our inability to build form and consistency in the last six weeks is because we have become very fragile at the back and conceded poor goals far too easily. The defeats at Spurs, at Stoke and against Villa were horror shows for our defensive line.

    Our failure last season was all about our inability to score goals. That was the most glaring deficiency that faced Brendan Rodgers. His answer: buy another central midfielder, get another one on loan, spend 10 million on an Italian rookie striker (albeit a promising one) and loan out Andy Carroll with no nailed down replacement.

    If we’d drawn against two out of three of Spurs,Stoke and Villa I wouldn’t be quite so frustrated. If you can’t score easily then it seems obvious that you make it very hard for other teams to score. That seems to have currently eluded Brendan Rodgers. So in three games where we averaged 60 % possession we get beat instead.

    From a public relations perspective he is great proof of the gulf between talking a lot and communicating well. I almost prefer the taciturn gruffness of Kenny Dalglish over Rodger’s over willingness to talk to the media.

    QPR away and Sunderland at home should be at least four points. Anything less and I suspect that the whisper of disapproval amongst fans is going to get closer to a roar.

  19. I can clearly see why he looked good to FSG, but there are very few businesses that go for such a trade off of vision over experience in their appointments. Given the old crystal ball to help make the new manager decision, 10th going in to January with Rogers I would have said, thanks no thanks. It has been a long time since I have read the fan base expect to lose to Arsenal & the mancs, as they do currently on RAWK. But at the same time he has had extenuating squad circumstances. Look at Dempsey and Carroll now as well. How many goals have they had between them since the August debacle?. That has worked in his favour, as with them in the squad he would look a worse manager than he does without them, let alone his barely looking beyond his previous club as a source of new talent. The biggest thing working in his favour though is that changing managers again is my idea of a disaster. Let’s hope he is learning, and that the second half of the season is significantly better than what has just happened.
    I see no option but to go with Roy’s line and say In Brendan We Have to Trust. And let’s see the ex city scouts earn some wage.

  20. Well the QPR match is now over, so the slick attacking football we were promisedlooked to have finally arrived. Henderson looked good until the novovirus took its toll and he had to go off. However the impetus disappeared when the second half started, Suarez moved deeper to receive the ball, QPR pressed better and got closer to our midfield.
    Does this mean BR has turned the corner? I think not, Sturridge could not claim a place in both CHelsea and Man City. Bolton looked to be his spiritual home, but they did not play the so called BR way.
    Getting back to your point Roy, a lot of what BR has claimed to have put in place was already there, the only difference is that he has pinned his hopes on the youth emerging, I’m afraid that Suso does not look ready,
    and Sterling is not street savvy yet. Wisdom had a good promising start, but injury has robbed us of the chance to see Johnson further forward.
    What have Pacheco and Robinson done to block even a place on the bench, when BR would rather play people out position rather than give them a run out?
    If FSG do back BR in this window, do we lose the baby with the bath water?
    Undoubtedly some need to go, but then we also need to have suitable replacements available, otherwise a problem high up the pitch is going to appear further back where we definitely can’t afford mistakes, which we are already making.

  21. A good article on the whole…. I agree Kenny didn’t get backing (not talking in £) in support from the top and his team around him and with time to prove.
    Think KEVIN may have missed the point in his first post.
    I do worry that we could and should have more points right now even with the team we have but I am still sitting patient but I think we need to see the group/philosophy really punching hard next season.
    there is time and there is time

  22. There is too many reds stuck in the past. We are mocked for it, and most of the comments on here just provide ammo.

    Rodgers is a forward thinking young coach, like Guardiola was, like Klopp was, like Rafa was before Valencia took a gamble on him (hadn’t he been sacked twice already in previous jobs?). Im not putting him in there bracket of course, but like them he had a plan strong enough that a big club gave him a chance.

    Rodgers is being persicuted for not being Rafa, or Kenny. The squad was a mess this summer and had underperformed horribly in the league. Three under used, experienced players decided the time to move on had come. The board didn’t fight them due to there age & wage profile. So the squad was now stripped of the experience, intelligence and goals of Kuyt, Maxi, and Bellamy putting Rodgers further in the mire. Carroll had to go, he was an awful mistake and of our (Kenny and Comolli) other recent buys there was only a taker for Adam. We needed a lot of work on the squad but could the owners go all out and back a manager with mega bucks from the off or drip feed him money as he proves his ability in the market?

    It took us over £100m of investment to see Kenny and Comolli didnt have a grasp of the plan. That cant happen again. Get off his case. Rafa was woefull that first year in a league far less strong then this. He deserves a chance not hounding by sulking fans pining after former managers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *